An exchange of gifts

7 Responses

  1. Martin Keenan says:

    The phrase “O admirabile commercium” does not appear anywhere in the Roman Missal. It comes from the Liturgy of the Hours, the First Antiphon of Vespers for 1 January. The antiphon itself (quoted at CCC 526) goes on to explain the two facets of the opening phrase “o admirabile commercium” :-

    “Man’s Creator has become Man, born of the Virgin” –
    this is the first exchange: the Son of God put off His Divinity to take on our humanity (cf. Phil.2:6-8; 2Co.8:9)

    “We have been made sharers in the Divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share our humanity” –
    this is the second exchange: the Eucharist as a foretaste of eternity: we become what we receive. cf. the striking words of St. Athanasius (quoted at CCC 460) “The Son of God became man so that we might become God”.

    These words of the antiphon match the prayer at the mingling of water and wine – “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the Divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity” (and cf.2Pet.1:4 also quoted at CCC 460). It is this “divinization” or “theosis” which is missing from Sr. Judith Coyle’s reflection.

    For a fuller elucidation of this antiphon, see, rather, the article by Fr. Mecconi SJ in the December 2010 issue of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review
    http://hprweb.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=259:o-admirabile-commercium-the-true-christmas-exchange&catid=34:current-issue

  2. GREGORY JOSEPH says:

    DEAR SR JUDY COYLE IHM,
    YOUR WISDOM IS MY CHRISTMAS GIFT I EXCHANGE FOR MY UNDERSTANDING.
    YOUR HOLY ORDER, APOSTOLATE OF PRAYER AND LABOUR IS WITH GOOD KINDNESS. YOU SAY FREELY WE TAKE AND RECIEVE THE GRACE OF GOD.
    BLESSED JUDY IN YOUR WORK WE ARE SAVED BY THE WONDERFULL CHURCH JESUS WAS BORN INTO. BLESSED MARY BORN WITHOUT SIN, HER HUSBAND, FATHER SAINT JOSEPH TAUGHT JESUS THE TRUTH AND GOD BECAME MAN. WE HAVE RECIEVED EVERYTHING AND SO I LEARN TO SHARE.
    TOGETHER.WE ARE BLESSED. PRAISE BE JESUS CHRIST
    I AM HAPPY IT IS CHRISTMAS AGAIN. MAY YOU HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND THE GIFT OF A NEW YEAR IN AN ETERNAL LIFE.
    PEACE TO YOU,
    GREGORY MANTLE.

  3. Derrick Kourie says:

    Thanks, Judy, for a moving meditation. I read it to a friend in a hospital bed who was also greatly moved by it. It led my thoughts down the following path:

    I have been taught to use the Offertory as an occasion to offer to the Lord my poor little life as the only gift I have to give to God (even though all that I have already comes from God). God accepts this gift, divinises it and returns the gift of God’s self in the eucharist. From this perspective, the gifts exchanged are “myself to God” and “God to me”. This, broadly, is the spiritual movement of Mass—at least as I try to live it.

    But you have brought out a fresh dimension for me: that we can view all of humanity offering itself as a “gift” to God (even though humanity derives from God and is totally dependent on God). God then graciously accepts this gift, and divinises it by Jesus’ incarnation. The gifts now exchanged are “humanity to God” and “God to humanity”. In other words, my personal giving and receiving reflects- and is adumbrated by a vaster spiritual movement involving humanity and God.

    The result is a God who has tasted the joys and sorrows of our humanity to the fullness. It is this assurance—that God knows our human condition “existentially” as it were, not just abstractly or intellectually—that underpins our Christian confidence in subsequently offering God our own little lives, with all their “unimportant” joys and sorrows and hopes.

    As you rightly point out, because of “admirabile commercium” (the wondrous exchange) “Our home now is in him, we in God and God in us…”

    Of course, as some wise theologian pointed out to me, all religious language is metaphorical, and to this extent risks saying or not saying something that a given hearer might have been wanting to hear. For this reason, I find Martin’s criticism (“It is this divinization or theosis which is missing from Sr. Judith Coyles reflection.”) rather puzzling. It may or may not be the case that “this divinisation” is missing from your reflection (I don’t think it is). My response is: so what? There are a gazillion other things also missing from any meditation, which perforce, must be constrained by time and space.

  4. Martin Keenan says:

    Maybe I misread it, Derrick. But on my reading Sister Judith Coyle concentrates exclusively on the hypostatic union: Christ fully man and fully God. The “exchange” is all comprehended in Him and we are included by proxy.

    Because Jesus Christ experienced all our human experience (which is not actually true, for human experience is tainted and penetrated by sin of which Jesus was free), so our humanity was taken up at the Ascension: isn’t this her point? She is looking at humanity, and not at individuals.

    “The life of Jesus, our human life, begun at Christmas and transfigured in his Resurrection remains now forever in God. In this an exchange was accomplished, humanity and divinity made one. All that we are is now in the Godheadour hunger, our pain, our gratitude, our fear, our delight.”

    Divinization or theosis looks forward to what awaits each individual at the end of time, and what each individual can experience in the fleeting moments of Holy Communion. This isn’t an add-on point, but is central to the “admirabile commercium” which is the subject of the meditation and which is beautifully expressed and explained in the Antiphon itself.

  5. Martin Keenan says:

    Consider also the collect of yesterday’s Mass:-

    Father, creator and redeemer of mankind,
    you decreed, and your Word became man,
    born of the Virgin Mary.
    May we come to share the divinity of Christ,
    who humbled Himself to share our human nature,
    for He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit
    one God, for ever and ever

    It is the subject of a meditation (which draws on CCC 460 and focusses on divinization) at http://ericsammons.com/blog/2010/12/17/the-purpose-of-christmas-our-deification/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DivineLife+%28Divine+Life+-+A+Blog+by+Eric+Sammons%29

  6. Derrick Kourie says:

    As I understand your concern, Martin, it is not that Judy denies that each person’s eventual destiny is in the life of the Godhead (theosis). It is, rather, that she fails to mention this in the meditation—a point you believe to be central to the “admirabile commercium” notion.

    Theosis / divinisation is of course a vast and important topic, rooted in the Orthodox tradition, but also fully embraced by contemporary Catholic theology. Indeed, an extract from Wikipedia notes that the “process of divinization is the center of gravity around which move Rahner’s understanding of creation, anthropology, Christology, ecclesiology, liturgy, and eschatology.” (And much of Rahner builds on and refines one of my personal favourite writers: Teilhard.)

    It seems to me quite arbitrary to insist that a particular aspect of divinisation (the soul’s final destiny in the Divine, fleetingly glimpsed in the Eucharist) is central to an understanding of “admirabile commercium”. Some might wish to emphasise other dimensions of divinisation, for example: the importance of appropriating the here-and-now sharing in the divine life; the collective and universal nature of divinisation that adumbrates its personal dimension; etc.

    Judy’s focus was the exchange of gifts, and her very pertinent question is “What is it that we give to God?” As I read her, it is not merely that we give ourselves individually to God in the exchange, but that Humanity as a whole, affords the Divine an opportunity of extending or completing itself (if one may venture such language of the Divine—but words fail). If there had been no Humanity, then God would somehow be less complete. God would not have experienced what it is like to shed God’s divinity.

    In my view, it is perfectly adequate to contribute one valuable insight such as this in a meditation. The merit of the meditation is that it does not try to say too much (unlike many sermons). It is both fresh and fundamental, and can launch a thousand further meditations, including one on the soul’s final destiny in the Divine, fleetingly glimpsed in the Eucharist.

  7. Martin Keenan says:

    Well, Derrick, I think this is my problem. Sister Judith Coyle drew attention to some words used in the liturgy (it’s surprising that she got the source wrong, but I am not complaining about that) and she then posed a question or two as to what those words mean.

    Her response doesn’t read like a free meditation – taking the introductory words as a point of departure – but as the straight answer to the questions she raised.

    In fact, the rest of the liturgical text in question couldn’t be clearer as to what those opening words mean. It’s a very simple idea and not one which I have imposed on the text (it is not a matter of what I “believe to be central to the [Antiphon]”), but it is one which Sister Judith Coyle’s free meditation ignores and obscures. I think that’s a fair point.

    To put it more brutally, we should endeavour to understand what a liturgical text is saying before we launch off into free-based meditation.

    Having said that, I must add that I was moved to read your appreciation of her meditation, Derrick, and the holy use you put it to.

    Peace.